Premium content from Phoenix Business Journal – by Jan Buchholz
Date: Friday, August 26, 2011, 3:00am MST
Many developers in Phoenix have gone out of business, left town or found a different business niche, but Ashley Harder is undaunted. The first-time developer is beginning her new career with a remodel of a historic commercial space at 335 W. McDowell Road in Phoenix.
“I chose this site because there is a change happening on McDowell,” Harder said. “It’s where the art and cultural district meets the business district.”
Down the street at the southeast corner of McDowell and Seventh Avenue, Vintage Partners also is renovating a collection of three interlocking buildings into a neighborhood shopping center that will have between six and eight tenants. According to Vintage Principal David Scholl, the 16,000-square-foot building will be completed in mid-November, and tenants will move in shortly thereafter.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Zoyo Yogurt have signed on at Vintage, with negotiations in process for others. It will be called the Corner on 7th.
Unlike Harder, who is going it alone, Scholl, a former Westcor, has teamed with two other former Westcor executives, Mike Treadwell and Bob Williams, to create a development company that focuses on retail neighborhood infill sites. Recently, the company added four other real estate professionals to its team — Monty Ortman, Mark Ortman, Walter Crutchfield and Casey Treadwell — but Scholl said the objective is to stay small, nimble and ready to respond to retail and neighborhood needs.
As for Harder, she purchased the 3,000-square-foot building in March. According to documents filed with the Maricopa County Recorder’s office, she paid $345,000 for the building that, in its previous incarnation, was a salvage antique store. It originally was built as a single-family home in the early 1940s and rebuilt for a variety of commercial uses over the years.
Her company, Harder Development, is converting the current single-store footprint into three stores. A patio with benches and shade trees will surround the building.
“It will have a very sweet and warm atmosphere,” said Harder, who is putting some of her own capital into the project but relying mostly on loans from private sources. “This would be difficult to do without private investors.”
It wouldn’t be possible either without the depressed prices that currently characterize the Phoenix real estate market.
“Because of that, I’m able to make it work,” she said.
Mark Stapp, director of the masters in real estate development program at Arizona State University Arizona State University, said Harder is focusing on the one niche that has the potential of success in such a difficult market.
“There’s a lot of little things going on in town. They’re very focused, very much local kinds of projects,” Stapp said. “That’s a good thing. We very much need these small, organic projects to give us character.”
Barbara Lloyd, a broker with NAI Horizon in Phoenix, is handling retail leasing for Harder.
Earlier this summer Lloyd held an open house.
“(It was) very successful. We had about 60 people attend, including brokers, downtown business owners and neighbors,” Lloyd said.
Though no tenants have signed on thus far, Harder and Lloyd said there has been a lot of interest from small-business owners, including a wine shop, yoga studio, pet shop, accessory and apparel stores and art galleries.
Harder expects to pull a building permit in September and ultimately lease the property for about $22 per square foot. She still hasn’t picked a name for the project, but she’s asking fans of Harder Development’s Facebook page to submit ideas.
The architect on the project is Glenn Liptack, principal with Nostdahl Liptack Architects PLC in Phoenix. The contractor is Willmeng Construction Inc. Willmeng Construction Inc.
“I want to get it filled up by the holidays,” Harder said.